March 13 was an unforgettable evening for Bianca Tarantola and her family at Bridgestone Arena, as the Nashville Predators hosted the Winnipeg Jets.
The Preds partnered with local organizations Cottage Cove, Sonic Automotive and Cross Point Church's Dollar Club to lend a helping hand for the Tarantolas. The family's story of struggle, perseverance and faith was told over the course of the game in multiple installments of short videos during television timeouts. Fans inside the arena witnessed the feature closing during the third period with the presentation of a life-changing gift: a Nissan Quest van.
After the reveal, Tarantola and her family saw their new vehicle on the Bridgestone Arena Plaza, gorgeously displayed with a bright red bow on the hood. Departing fans and spectators who were filing out of the building stopped, congratulated and wished her the best.
"I didn't believe it. I just stopped and said, 'Am I hearing this right?'" Tarantola said of the surprise. "I'm just so thankful."
It's something the family will remember forever.
"This is awesome," Tarantola said. "We've been to Predators games. My oldest son wears a Preds sweatshirt every day to school. We're big Pred fans, so this is just a dream come true. [The Predators] are able to provide those dreams, and it's just really neat. It's really neat that they do that."
The Nashville Predators are honored to work with Sonic Automotive, Cottage Cove and the Dollar Club on making Bianca and her family's dream a reality.
Regional Marketing Director of Sonic Automotive Evan Butler was in attendance during the reveal and met the Tarantola family.
"Seeing this family get a vehicle - a good, dependable vehicle - to get back and forth to work in is what we thrive on," Butler said. "The Preds are a staple in the Nashville community. Sonic Automotive loves the opportunity to partner with them and present a needing family with something that will help them, and will help them improve their way of life and their kids' way of life."
Kristen Finch, Manager of Community Relations for the Predators, was also on hand for the event. "I thought it was really cool," she said. "It was an idea that was hatched just a month or two ago. We partnered with one of the organizations (Cottage Cove) that we already do a lot of stuff with and is one of our grant recipients. It was cool to incorporate someone that we already have a partnership with and know does great work in the community
"Giving back is something easy that our staff can do and that our players can do as a thank you to the community for supporting us being here and us being able to give back to them. I think it's important. Just seeing the reaction [of the family] makes everything worthwhile."
Founded in 1994, Cottage Cove is a Christian ministry devoted to assisting at-risk children and their families, operating completely on donations from the community and families involved in the services. It offers a variety of programs to children, including after-school learning and tutoring and summer camp activities during the warmer months.
Brent MacDonald, Executive Director of Cottage Cove, weighed in on the special evening, saying, "The hardest part for me was not slipping up and giving any clue for what was about to happen --and she had no idea until she saw the van on the arena screen. In Cottage Cove's 23 years, we've never been part of something like this, and we're so grateful for the Predators, Sonic Automotive and Cross Point for making it possible."
The Dollar Club is an initiative put on through the Nashville-based Cross Point Church, centered on making a difference in the local community. Donors give a single dollar in order to fund good gestures for individuals and families in need. Every month, the Dollar Club partners with different organizations to help aid in these generous acts.
"This is exactly what makes Nashville such a special town," Jacob McGinnis, Communications Director for Cross Point Church said. "We have the perks of the big city because of the amazing entertainment and sports teams, but we also get the small-town charm. When our cherished organizations partner with the community to do good, hope is breathed into the city."